Her story begins with an insatiable curiosity, and little did she know that this curiosity would lead her to Chennai, a city far from her home and comfort zone. She had no concrete reason to come here; it was simply a whimsical decision driven by her desire for adventure…
Jane Kataria – When did you visit India for the first time?
Fiametta Maggio Pereira – Oh, that was long ago in 1993 when I wasn’t even 20 years old. I had no concrete reason to come here; it was simply a whimsical decision driven by my desire for adventure. At the time, I was a young professional working in a photojournalistic studio in Milan, content with my life’s routine but with an insatiable curiosity. I got the idea of a winter holiday in India and embark on this journey alone
JK – Alone in India and the age of 20 with no mobile phone or internet. That’s quite adventurous. How did your parents allow you? Weren’t you scared?
FMP – I wasn’t a kid anymore I was working so my parents brought me with the idea that world is not so safe, that I am independent and I can take my own life decisions. But you are right. Those days life was quite different with its own charm. No constant calls and messages, no online bookings, no apps assistants, only paper maps and people to ask for directions. People have always been very warm, helpful and accommodating I felt absolutely safe and welcomed. My compass pointed northward to India’s history-laden embrace, a place that would etch its mark on my life in ways I couldn’t foresee. I travelled in Delhi and Rajasthan by local trains and buses.
From the moment I arrived, I felt like I had entered a new dimension of existence. India presented a stark contrast to everything I had experienced before. It was love at first sight, a whirlwind affair with its vivid hues, ancient traditions, and the warmth of its people that captured my heart.
Upon returning to Milan, I couldn’t shake the feeling that India was where I truly belonged. I began working on a plan that would bring me back to this captivating land, not as a tourist, but as a dweller in its way of life.
JK – Then how did you choose Chennai amongst so many cities?
FMP – If you set a goal and work toward it you can achieve anything. That was my belief. I started fervently looking for a job in India. I got a job offer from an Italian textile company sourcing its vendors in India. I immediately said yes and there I was alone in Chennai, living at Poes Garden, next to Jayalalitha’s house (smiles proudly), travelling by rickshaw to office and back and just exploring the new way of life. Chennai as a city is totally different from what I was used to in Italy and it was fascinating and challenging at the same time. Little did I anticipate the profound metamorphosis that awaited me on this very voyage. Destiny has its own ways….
I was introduced to him as a buyer. He was the friend of one of the people I was working with in manufacturing textiles and I wanted to buy textiles for myself. One of the vendors I went to meet was a young Indian gentleman Gerard Pereira. It was an instant spark of chemistry, we just mutually had irresistible attraction and spent lot of time together, work, friendship, love and relationship. Gerard, a native of India, became my guide to the intricacies of Indian life and culture. He showed me facets of this country that I could have never discovered on my own, and with each passing day, my love for India in his face deepened.
JK – Oh you got married here, may be it was a destiny call, a pull you couldn’t resist?
FMP – (laughing) Now looking back I can definitely say so. After six months my working contract got over and I returned to Italy. Gerard was on a business trip to Denmark and specially came to my house in Milan, met my parents and asked me to shift to Chennai. I joined Gerard in the business and became partner in the company. I didn’t doubt that we were destined for each other and in due course after two years we had a huge wedding in a small town called Chirala in Andhra Pradesh where his mother run a school. Now we are proud parents to two wonderful children, both in their 20s – Tanitha and Dylan, who are nurtured within the embrace of two diverse worlds and cultures. Our journey has not been without its challenges, but it has been defined by love. Together, Gerard and I built a life filled with love and adventure.
We run a textile company, Pereira’s International Pvt. Ltd., specialising in manufacturing of home textiles. The country’s endless resources of traditions and heritage have been a remarkable gift, enriching our lives in countless ways. We have sales in India and abroad. I just love all the aesthetics, design, creativity and I can work with passion crating textile for home décor.
In the end, my journey from Milan to Chennai was not just a geographical shift; it was a transformation of the heart and soul. India has opened its arms to me, and I have embraced it with all my being. The tapestry of my life now weaves together threads of two worlds, creating a story of love, discovery, and a profound connection to a land that will forever hold my heart.
JK- How can you describe Chennai now and then, the change must be visible?
FMP – Over the past three decades, I have beheld Chennai’s astonishing evolution. Yes, I still cherish my fond memories of the “old Madras”, a simpler era devoid of internet and cellphones, replete with modern conveniences, accentuates the stark duality of tradition and progress.
Still I find Chennai a welcoming and friendly city to any new expatriate despite its massive population and in spite of all the new and fancy restaurants, I still enjoy the traditional establishments like Saravana Bhavan and Woodlands for breakfast or Ponnusamy Hotel for a thali, testament to the city’s ability to balance its heritage with modernity.
In our own home itself we savor both Indian and Italian cuisine, a beautiful reflection of our cultural fusion and familial harmony.
JK- What do you do apart from family business?
FMP – My days are spent between many activities and as per the latest project, Bottega Pereira, (www.bottegapereira.com) online store as well as a physical store that I run along with my daughter Tanitha.
When time permits, I dive into creating Italian food events or collaborations in the culinary world, passion that my son Dylan must have taken from me since he is now training as a chef in Italy!
JK – This is remarkable! Are you a chef also?
FMP – I love gourmet food, I enjoy cooking and serving people. I was invited to take part at the Italian food festival at Hyatt Regency Chennai. It was an amazing experience, a dream come true to work with such a highly reputed hotel chain. I also did several special events like the one with Kappa Chakka Kandhari for a Christmas dinner. I also organise home dinners and Italian cooking classes. It illustrates my commitment to sharing the love for food and culture with others.
I have created my retreat to Yercaud, nestled in a coffee plantation. It is a picturesque way to find solace and rejuvenation amidst my bustling life. I take inspiration to create from nature, travel, and I like to surround myself with beautiful things
JK – What about your children do you they feel themselves more Indian or Italian?
FMP – Difficult to divide, or give preference (shy smile). We visit Italy every year and I have a very big family there. I think they feel at home at both the places. I find it’s a great blessing to be part of such rich cultures like Indian and Italian. Neither me nor my children would be able to choose just one place to live. We will always shuffle between our two soul destinations.
JK – And what about you? Can you describe who you are? And why do you think the events you organise are so popular?
FMP – Who am I? It’s the million dollar question that we always ask ourselves! I know that I am an amalgamation of different cultures from my inception; I was born in Italy from a Sicilian father and a Ligurian mother, the two extreme “seasides” of the country, marrying a man from another continent and spending my life exploring and appreciating two cultures.
I am lucky, I am very lucky for all this rich environment that make me pass from designing textile to creating new product, to experimenting new recipes or travel around the country embracing every day a new experience, a new day. And I think I propel this thrive for life, the enthusiasm and optimism, my ability to enjoy what I have and to create what I want to have and share. We always lean to something with positives vibes and activities and that’s what people like about me. I hope. (laughing)